Tuesday, September 28, 2010

American History Class

I just finished Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen, the revised and updated version. Despite how much Loewen toots his own horn, it is a great book and I do recommend it to anyone interested in history and/or education.

Loewen bemoans not teachers at all, but the textbooks of American history courses. They gloss over extremely important events, focus on names and dates rather than technological advancements (few people realize how much of our culture exists today solely because of indoor heating, for example), blatantly lie about figures such as Christopher Columbus and Woodrow Wilson, and fade out optimistically after the obvious successful civil rights movement. Not to mention how huge these textbooks are, both burdening students and discouraging anything after WWII getting reached in a school year.

Up until middle school, my classmates and I loathed history class. The textbooks were outdated and were written at what was the high school level in the 70's. Lessons, homework and tests were entirely textbook-based with memorization of names and dates of only the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. This was partly because our teachers were nuts.

I was extremely lucky in getting Ms. B for middle school history. She focused very little on our updated textbooks and, instead, used a variety of effective and fun techniques. We had fantastic field trips, put on plays, made dioramas of violent events and all sorts of things deprived middle schoolers of the late 90's enjoyed. I was already an avid reader, so I researched topics covered in class (and thus converted away from Christianity...) and discovered both Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe and Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson. Ms. B was restricted from teaching even more nitty-gritty history by the corrupt and insecure administration of the school, to the point of declaring that the Holocaust killed all the Jews.

My high school American history class was awful due to a burnt-out teacher. The one thing he did right was assign us to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. The next two history electives I took, one in high school and one in college, were both U.S. 20th Century History. My college art history classes focused more on art than history.

History class can be ridiculously fun! The only people I've met who don't like history are people who haven't seen how insane it is. If someone put a gun to my head and said “if you don't become a teacher, I'll kill you,” history is the only topic I would pick that wouldn't drive me nuts. American history, world history would make me chuck my desk out the window and flee into the forest. Even then, the first few months would be spent correcting previous class' mistakes!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Everything is tied into class. EVERYTHING. Race, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. are all ways of categorizing people into different classes = the haves and the have-nots.

There's even a theory on the classism between MySpace and facebook. Facebook began as a college alum networking tool (CLASSISM ALL OVER THE PLACE) and then gradually expanded. As facebook exploded, MySpace became, well, "ghetto"-ized. Look for yourself; there's no way Tila Tequila could have ever become the queen of facebook. There have been suggestions that Twitter is the next facebook...will the internet gentrify?!?!?

Exceptional education is what brings about class rebellion. Education proves that the system is anything but "business as usual." When African Americans learned of their history through integrated schools and post-WWII resources, the civil rights movement began. When housewives read The Feminine Mystique, they began to reach for the world beyond the kitchen. And so on. Poor schools give weak education and then stay poor because nobody knows any different. And there are lower-class subcultures that reject education on principle: what good will a degree do you in a factory or on a farm? Time and money are better spent on feeding the family.

A lot of people don't get how queers fit into classism. There are a lot of small ropes that tie the two together rather than one big, obvious thing like race or gender:
- classism involves legacies, generations see very little differences. Queers generally breed less than straight people so we don't really have a legacy to pass on.
- heterosexism, the tool of the upper/ruling class to pass on their legacies, restricts both queers (even liberated straight people) from gaining ground and straight people from breaking the mold.
- the social rules of heterosexism make the differences between their straight followers and us queers as obvious as the differences between race and gender.

American classes are separating, what was once a gradient is becoming black and white. While racial minorities, independent women and queer people might become rich, it's extremely unlikely for any of us to become wealthy or powerful (Chris Rock has already articulated this). Sarah Palin may have power over America's straight, white women but it's the power to keep them quiet rather than mobile.

Awareness of class and privilege is the first step to breaking it down. Voting is not enough.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Returning to Femininity

EDIT: you may have to click on the pictures for them to show up correctly

Several things have been coinciding lately:
- I've recovered from graduation and from a few difficult friend-break ups
- it's a year since a pretty traumatizing experience in which a boss told me that, by not being feminine, I wasn't working hard enough.
- http://kkriesel.blogspot.com/2010/08/femme-day.html happened
- it's fall
- I finally visited a wonderful friend who reminded me how awesome it is to be fabulous
- a Milwaukee butch veteran acknowledged me as a fellow. That was an honor, even though she was drunk.
- I cleaned out and re-organized all my clothes TWICE
- .....really really really awful shit. No, I won't elaborate.

Because all of these things have happened in the period of a month, this happened:


And this:


And this, too:


While living on campus, I did crazy, dramatic drag all the time! Poofy skirts, swishy dresses, CORSETS, and all manner of wild femininity. And then there were days when I looked like a young Michael Cera going to his 70's-themed 8th grade graduation dance. Because I was in such a safe, cloistered environment, drag was fun and expressive and vulnerable. I tried to carry that over to post-college life but that didn't work so well, especially when that douche-boss equated uncomfortable femininity with hard work...douche. From that incident sprang a year of butchitude. Butchitude...tubular.

Now that I'm getting more comfortable with my adult life (that word isn't so scary anymore!), I'm getting more comfortable with my femininity. And since that really awful shit is happening, dramatic drag is a good distraction. I need distractions now in order to keep a grip on reality and running around looking like this is certainly distracting: